Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gujarat Govt moves Supreme Court on Lokayukta issue

The Gujarat Government on Thursday approached the Supreme Court challenging the state High Court order upholding the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta by the governor.

The Gujarat High Court had on Wednesday upheld the appointment of Justice (Retd) Mehta as the Lokayukta while sharply criticising Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his “pranks” that had sparked a “constitutional mini crisis”.

Rejecting the state government’s plea, three months after the High Court gave a split verdict, Justice V.M. Sahai said the “pranks” played by the Chief Minister on the Lokayukta issue “demonstrates destruction of our democracy”.

Justice Sahai, who was given the task of hearing the challenge against the appointment of Lokayukta following the conflicting verdict of the two-member bench, said Mr. Modi’s “questionable” conduct of “stonewalling” the appointment of Justice Mehta threatened the rule of law.

He said the Chief Minister’s effort to metastasise the procedure for appointment of Lokayukta by issuing the Gujarat Lokayukta (Amendment) Ordinance, 2011, were “deprave and truculent” actions.

Holding that “extraordinary situations demand extraordinary remedies”, he said, “Open resistance of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister in not accepting the primacy of the opinion of the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in the matter of appointment of Lokayukta has created a crisis situation.”

There was no good reason to reject the name of Justice Mehta once the objections of the Chief Minister had been overruled by the Chief Justice, he noted.

Mr. Modi had insisted on Justice J.R. Vora to be appointed as Lokayukta but this was not accepted by the Chief Justice on the ground that the judge had been appointed as the Director of the Gujarat State Judicial Academy.

If the Chief Minister’s choice had been accepted, it would have set a “pernicious trend” and would have propitiated the public functionaries who were likely to fall within the scanner of Lokayukta and destroyed the integrity of the institution as envisaged, Justice Sahai said.

Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal had on August 25 last appointed Justice Mehta to the post of Lokayukta, which had been lying vacant for the last eight years.

The state government had challenged the appointment in the High Court the very next day, saying the governor had “bypassed” the state government.

Mr. Modi had maintained that the governor had acted unconstitutionally in selecting the ombudsman as the state government had not been consulted.

On October 11, a division bench of the High Court had given a split verdict on the appointment issue.

While one of the judges had upheld the decision of the Governor, another judge had quashed the warrant of appointment issued by him, terming it unconstitutional.

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